Susan Leininger spent several months sharing her concerns about the coronavirus pandemic with her older sister, Julie Bair.
“We were talking about how school was going to be different this year and I guess that’s OK,” Leinnger said.
They decided to co-write and publish a book, “School Is Different This Year And That’s OK!” in mid-August. The writing process was long distance because Leininger lives in Noblesville and Bair in Mason, Ohio.
“Through lots of FaceTime, phone calls and texts, we put our nervous energy into the creativity about making the right decision and going through the process,” Leininger said. “We turned our emotions into inspiration of creativity by creating a story about silly ducks and goats navigating through both in-school and remote-learning experiences with a positive perspective. It teaches kids (that) families make different decisions for different reasons and kind of overcoming all those uncertainties.”
The characters were inspired by the sisters’ farm animals. Leininger got four goats during quarantine and Bair got chickens. The sisters found an illustrator, Claudio Icuza, in Argentina.
“The greatest challenge was the physical distance that we had with him and each other, and then the timing,” Leininger said. “We had the idea to write the book on July 17, and in less than 30 days we wrote, illustrated and self-published the book. The timing was critical to the book success, we thought.”
More than 10,000 books sold in the first five weeks, Leininger said. It had a top-20 ranking for quickest growth in Amazon U.S. and reached No. 1 for new releases for children’s animal books on Amazon U.S. It also made the Top 20 Most Sold and Read Books of the Week for Amazon charts in Canada.
“It’s really surprised us,” Leininger said. “We were having fun being creative and bonding. When it came out, we only saw one other kids’ COVID book, and now there is over 30.”
Bair said the most challenging part was writing their first book in under 30 days.
“Given the timely nature of the subject, speed was important,” Bair said. “We learned a lot through the process and had a lot of fun doing it together.”
It has convinced the sisters to write “Celebrations Are Different This Year And That’s OK!.” Leininger said the book shares a positive message of how celebrations were certainly different in 2020, but many good and new moments were also created. It also encourages a spirit of giving and helping others.
Leninger, 40, and Bair, 44, share the same March 23 birthday. The goat in the book wears a baseball jersey with the number 23.
“They’re super social,” Leininger said of her four goats. “I’ve brought them with me when I’ve read at school. The kids love when I bring the main characters with me.”
Leininger and her husband, Ryan, have three children, Danielle, 12, Ella, 9 and Nolan, 7. Each attends Our Lady of Grace at Noblesville. Bair also has three children.
The book is available on amazon.com.